Paul Krugman urges congress to stand up to president Bush and find a way to end the futility in Iraq:
Two More Years, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: At a reception following the midterm election, President Bush approached Senator-elect James Webb. “How’s your boy?” asked Mr. Bush.
“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” replied Mr. Webb, whose son, a Marine lance corporal, is risking his life in Mr. Bush’s war of choice.
“That’s not what I asked you,” the president snapped. “How’s your boy?”
“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” said Mr. Webb.
Good for him. We need people in Washington who are willing to stand up to the bully in chief. Unfortunately, and somewhat mysteriously, they’re still in short supply. ... [It's] amazing ... the extent to which insiders still cringe before a lame duck with a 60 percent disapproval rating.
Look at what ... happened to the Iraq Study Group['s] ... “independent assessment.” If press reports are correct, the group ... watered down its ... recommendations, trying to come up with something Mr. Bush wouldn’t reject out of hand. In particular, says Newsweek, ... All it will do is “suggest that the president could, not should, begin to withdraw forces in the vaguely defined future.” ...
Even now, ... the wise men of Washington can’t bring themselves to face up to two glaringly obvious truths. The first is that Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq for no reason.
It’s true that terrible things will happen when U.S. forces withdraw. Everyone ... realizes that the civil war will get even worse after we’re gone, and that there will probably be a bloody bout of ethnic cleansing...
But nobody — not even Donald Rumsfeld, it turns out — thinks we’re making progress in Iraq. So the same terrible things ... will still happen if we delay ... withdrawal for two, three or more years. The only difference is that we’ll sacrifice many more American lives along the way.
The second truth is that the war will go on all the same, unless something or someone forces Mr. Bush to change course.
During his recent trip to Vietnam, Mr. Bush was asked whether there were any lessons from that conflict for Iraq. His response: “We’ll succeed unless we quit.”
It was a bizarre answer ..., but it makes perfect sense given what we know about Mr. Bush’s character. He has never been willing to own up to mistakes... If he were to accept the failure ... in Iraq, he would be admitting ... to having made the mother of all mistakes.
So Mr. Bush will keep sending other men’s children off to fight his war. And he’ll always insist that Iraq would have been a great victory if only his successors had shared his steely determination.
Does this mean that we’re doomed to at least two more years of bloody futility? Not necessarily. ... He’s still the commander in chief, but the new majority in Congress can put a lot of pressure on him to at least begin a withdrawal.
I’m worried, however, that Democrats may have counted on the Iraq Study Group to provide them with political cover. Now that the study group has apparently wimped out, will the Democrats do the same?
Well, here’s a question for those who might be tempted, yet again, to shy away from a confrontation with Mr. Bush over Iraq: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bully’s ego?
Update: From ThinkProgress:
Rep. Jim Moran: Bush Was Warned To Be ‘Extra Sensitive’ About Webb’s Son: ...The right wing has been attacking Webb for his reaction to Bush’s question. Last night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said Webb was “rude,” “inappropriate,” and “disrespectful,” because Bush was merely trying to extend a “nice gesture.” The National Review’s Corner called him “classless” and conservative columnist George WIll labeled him “a boor.”
But according to Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), Bush was told that Webb’s son had a recent brush with death in Iraq and was warned to be “extra sensitive” when talking to the Sen.-elect. ThinkProgress yesterday spoke with Moran’s office and confirmed the congressman’s statement...
Not only did Bush know about it, he was specifically briefed on the incident before meeting with Webb, and was cautioned to be extra sensitive in speaking with Webb about his son.
After such a briefing, Bush perhaps shouldn’t have been so surprised about Webb’s unwillingness to chit-chat about his son.